Alem Kib New
By Eden Mekonen
At the start of our pre-departure training in Los Angeles, we learned about the “Four H’s of Acculturation” – these being Honeymoon, Hostility, Humor, and Home. As someone who’s admittedly oscillated between humor and hostility, I sometimes feel as though a fifth “H” should be included for “Humbled.” Addis Ababa, and Ethiopia in general, has truly been a humbling experience for a compass-dependent and GPS reliant person, such as myself. I like to think of Google Maps as the reliable friend who you can always count on to help you out when you literally don’t know which way to turn; the friend you could always depend on to guide you whenever you take a misstep. However, as GPS isn’t widely used or accessible in Addis Ababa, navigating around the city has proven very challenging for me.
While this isn’t my first stay in Ethiopia, in previous visits I’ve often relied on directionally-savvy family members for geographic guidance. However, having come back to Addis this time around as an Ethiopian Diaspora Fellow, it is more so our responsibility to navigate our way through the city. That being said, I should point out that while we have only been living in Ethiopia for a few weeks, I have gotten lost countless times and have had very little understanding of where houses, businesses, and bus stops are situated in relation to one another.
“Ethiopia has truly been a humbling experience for a compass-dependent and GPS reliant person, such as myself.”
With the constant building, renovation, and closures of buildings that occur nearly every day in Addis, I often get distracted by the changing urban design of the city and find myself staring out in amazement, rather than traveling with intention whenever the other fellows and I venture out of our home. On my traffic filled commute from our home in the city center to my job at Selamta Family Project near Bethel, I’ve been overwhelmed and slightly confused at the sights of buildings that are new and open for business one day, then, seemingly without warning, permanently shut down the next day. With each of these commercial changes, I can’t help but wonder at how more directionally-sensible people develop such strong geographic familiarity of places and neighborhoods when the urban topography, and its directional identifiers, shift so often and are literally used to describe addresses.
In doing so, I’ve had to humble myself and often had to ask strangers for help locating a particular address, as well as push myself to work on my personal spatial awareness, since I can’t depend on my good old friend Google Maps to identify how to get to and from a particular location. At the very least, I try to remind myself that “alem kib new” (the world is round) and I’ll get there eventually regardless of whether I travel on foot, in a taxi, minibus, or bajaj, because life is a journey and not a destination.
“I try to remind myself that “alem kib new” (the world is round) and I’ll get there eventually.”
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship the organization and the leadership.